POWER AND SYRED / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY POWER AND SYRED / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Petri dish containing mercury metal, showing otherwise invisible mercury vapour under ultraviolet light. The UV lamp emits light with a wavelength of 253.7 nanometres, which causes the white paper background to fluoresce blue. The mercury vapour absorbs light at this wavelength, showing up as a dark patch against the background. Mercury is a liquid at standard temperature and pressure, and is volatile, readily evaporating and giving off vapour. Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic, and can cause sensory disturbances, lack of coordination, numbness and tingling, and death in cases of high acute or long-term exposure.
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